By Charles Jacobs, The Boston Jewish Advocate
Two weeks ago, the American Studies Association (ASA) voted to boycott Israeli universities and asked American scholars to sever ties with Israeli academic institutions. Jewish mainstream organizations have responded with shock and anger, both on at the national level and in communities across the country. Here in Boston, Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP), the Jewish Community Relations Council ( JCRC), Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and American Jewish Committee (AJC) joined together to issue a condemnation.
But to those who’ve been paying attention to the growth of anti Israelism on campus, the ASA boycott was predictable.
For decades, a campus-based alliance of leftist professors, “human rights” groups, purported “progressives” and Muslims built an anti-Israel narrative that so overwhelmingly dominates university dialogue that Jewish students who wish to defend Israel routinely face social and academic penalties and even physical threats. Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz has been talking about this since 2000. Sooner or later, the assault on Israel, which in 2005 took the form of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, was going to capture one coven or another of “progressive scholars.” The ASA vote is simply the bursting of a long-festering boil.
Palestinian support has become a common sight on U.S. college campuses. Jewish communal failure to stem the tide against Israel on American campuses has many causes; among the more important is a flawed understanding of anti- Israelism, which is a new and quite different form of anti-Semitism, and which requires a unique response.
I have had countless conversations with people of my generation who completely misunderstand the animus against Israel. To so many of them, it is simply and blatantly a matter of anti-Semitism, period. They believe Israel is hated because it is the state of the Jews. But on American campuses, this is simply not the case: Supporters of Israel are not hectored by raucous rednecks screaming “Christ killer” or by racists who think Jews share DNA with rats; they are instructed about “Israeli evil” by soft spoken, high-toned and articulate professors who seem merely to want justice for everyone.
Jews have to understand that anti-Israelism and its twin – Palestinianism are derivatives not of traditional Jew hatred, but of a more modern anti-Westernism, a product of Western intellectuals. They have to understand that today’s animus comes overwhelmingly not from the right, but from the left.
Pascal Bruckner’s book “The Tyranny of Guilt” offers a brilliant description of this disease. He focuses on Europe but the treatment fits America as well. He cites European intellectuals that the general Jewish public may not recognize, but it is the thinking of these people that has trickled down onto American campuses. Just ask your children.
I cannot do this prescient book justice in a few paragraphs, but here’s a précis, with quotes from the author: From beneath the West’s celebrated hedonism, and its liberation from religious authority, Bruckner hears the …read more